BIDDEFORD — Biddeford has to replace a Travis Roy Award finalist this year after senior forward Nik Lemieux graduated, taking his 21 goals and 43 points with him. But thankfully the Tigers have both of Lemieux’s linemates back from last season, including sophomore Ricky Ruck looking to build on last year’s breakout freshman season.

Last season served as a sort of passing of the torch for Lemieux, who Biddeford head coach Rich Reissfelder said was thrown into the wolves when he was a freshman on a rebuilding team. Lemieux led a top line for the Tigers that didn’t suffer despite being winged by a pair of freshmen in Ruck and Brady Crepeau.

“I learned that, just coming into the season, that he never stopped working, and that to be on his line, for us to do good together, I had to work as hard as he did,” Ruck said of Lemieux. “I had to match his skill and work as hard as he did.”

Reissfelder said he had no trepidation in putting Ruck on the top line as he’s known him since he was five or six years old and knew what kind of skill he brought to the team. And Ruck and Crepeau had played together for years, so there was no breaking-in period between those two. Building chemistry between Ruck and Lemieux didn’t take too long either.

“I think that you could see it took a little time for Nik and Rick to figure it out. It evolved over the season. Around Christmas, right after the New Year, is where they really picked it up,” said Reissfelder.

Ruck’s own personal breaking-in period lasted only a couple games, said Reissfelder, and his welcome to high school hockey moment came right out of the gates.

“I remember a big (hit), from the TA game actually, the first game of the season. I remember a big one from Owen Elliott,” said Ruck. “It was scary ”“ scary as a freshman.”

“That was his first scare, and he realized he was going to be okay and he could handle it, and he came back stronger than ever,” said Reissfelder.

The mental stress of playing at the high school level didn’t seem

Sports Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD — Biddeford has to replace a Travis Roy Award finalist this year after senior forward Nik Lemieux graduated, taking his 21 goals and 43 points with him. But thankfully the Tigers have both of Lemieux’s linemates back from last season, including sophomore Ricky Ruck looking to build on last year’s breakout freshman season.

Last season served as a sort of passing of the torch for Lemieux, who Biddeford head coach Rich Reissfelder said was thrown into the wolves when he was a freshman on a rebuilding team. Lemieux led a top line for the Tigers that didn’t suffer despite being winged by a pair of freshmen in Ruck and Brady Crepeau.

“I learned that, just coming into the season, that he never stopped working, and that to be on his line, for us to do good together, I had to work as hard as he did,” Ruck said of Lemieux. “I had to match his skill and work as hard as he did.”

Reissfelder said he had no trepidation in putting Ruck on the top line as he’s known him since he was five or six years old and knew what kind of skill he brought to the team. And Ruck and Crepeau had played together for years, so there was no breaking-in period between those two. Building chemistry between Ruck and Lemieux didn’t take too long either.

“I think that you could see it took a little time for Nik and Rick to figure it out. It evolved over the season. Around Christmas, right after the New Year, is where they really picked it up,” said Reissfelder.

Ruck’s own personal breaking-in period lasted only a couple games, said Reissfelder, and his welcome to high school hockey moment came right out of the gates.

“I remember a big (hit), from the TA game actually, the first game of the season. I remember a big one from Owen Elliott,” said Ruck. “It was scary ”“ scary as a freshman.”

“That was his first scare, and he realized he was going to be okay and he could handle it, and he came back stronger than ever,” said Reissfelder.

The mental stress of playing at the high school level didn’t seem to affect Ruck as a freshman, but Reissfelder said teams will start to key on him more with Lemieux out of the mix.

“I think what he’s going to see is some people are going to try to get him off his game mentally. He’s such a great puck-possession guy, he has great puck skills, that the guys that are a step or two behind will have no choice but to reach out and whack him with their stick,” said Reissfelder. “You’re not going to get those calls in high school hockey, especially come January and February. He’s got to learn to skate through that stuff and shake it off, and I have no doubt he will.”

Ruck’s best option to avoid pesky opponents is to utilize his superior skill. Reissfelder raved about Ruck’s “explosive” first three steps and hands that go “a million miles an hour.”

Add to that a will to compete that he learned from Lemieux and a comfort level in being a leader when he needs to be.

“I let a lot of the upperclassmen do more of just getting the team going and stuff like that. Other than that, I’ve said my things that I thought and everyone listens to each other in (the locker room),” said Ruck.

“Last year was more of a support role with Nik; now he’s got to be a leader,” said Reissfelder. “Does he have to score 100 goals? No. But as a team do we have to score? Absolutely. And he plays a big role in that.”

The initial return looks promising for this year’s Biddeford squad as the Tigers rallied to beat Portland/Deering 5-2 in their season opener. Ruck scored a goal and assisted on another, but other players stepped up to spark the offense as well ”“ something Reissfelder said is totally fine with his talented sophomore.

“We score a goal, doesn’t matter who scores, Rick’s happy,” said Reissfelder.

— Sports Staff Writer Wil Kramlich can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 323 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @WilTalkSports.



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